Civilian agencies drawn to DoD’s secret-level mobile device program

The Defense Department’s program to let employees use smartphones on the secret network is becoming more popular than ever imagined. After moving from the pilot to the full production stage in June, the Defense Mobile Classified Capability — Secret (DMCC-S) is in demand not just in the military, but across the government.

At least 10 civilian agencies are interested in the devices and the State Department already put in an order for the hardened version...

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The Defense Department’s program to let employees use smartphones on the secret network is becoming more popular than ever imagined. After moving from the pilot to the full production stage in June, the Defense Mobile Classified Capability — Secret (DMCC-S) is in demand not just in the military, but across the government.

At least 10 civilian agencies are interested in the devices and the State Department already put in an order for the hardened version of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

In fact, Secretary of State John Kerry was a part of the Defense Information Systems Agency pilot over the last year. DISA tested about 2,000 Samsung Galaxy S4 devices.

Additionally, DoD coalition partners also are interested in using the technology to communicate with American military units.

The Defense Mobile Classified Capability — Secret lets users access voice and data at the secret level from anywhere in the world.

The new capability replaced the Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device (SME PED) system, which became old and bulky technology such as 2G networks. DISA turned off the SME PED on July 30.

The big difference is DoD is using a commercial device as opposed to a having a company build a device from scratch.

In DoD, about 750 users are taking advantage of the DMCC-S program, said Kim Rice, DISA’s mobility portfolio manager. She said that number is growing monthly.

Rice, who spoke last week at the ATARC Federal Mobile Computing Summit, said DISA also recently rolled out the first mobile device management capability on the secret network.

Rice said DoD plans to test out a voice-only device that would run on the TS-SCI network before end of calendar year.

Another piece to this mobility puzzle is the use of derived credentials on smartphones.

Rice said DoD’s pilot of 400-to-500 people that downloaded digital certificates to their phones for authentication purposes will be extended through the end of the calendar year.

“We have gotten a lot of good lessons learned in terms of we quickly realized the requirement and the number of users who want to participate in the pilot, especially at the senior level, was voracious,” she said. “So we started working with the PKI office, because we figured out we could not only get lessons learned for how do you physical side — load the cert onto the device, but all of the back-end pieces in terms of the issuance of the certificates, the registration authority functions and how do you do some early training, particularly with the Army and some of the Joint Staff folks, so they can handle their own users as they come in with their requests.”

Rice said the enterprise service for getting the certificates on the devices will not be ready for a few more months instead of August.

In addition to the progress with the secret program and the derived credentials, Rice said DoD is expanding its unclassified mobile program.

She said there are about 80,000 users on BlackBerry devices, as well as 25,000 on Apple and Android devices. DISA now is looking at adding other devices using the Microsoft Windows operating system and Apple MacBooks.

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